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One of the challenges identified by Vice-President of Operations, Dan Souwand, was right at the picking floor and involved cabling. There simply had to be a better way to store and pick cabling SKUs accurately and efficiently, and then ship them promptly to the warehouse staging area for final pack.
Cabling is an awkward beast to store and pick, and Christie Lites carries literally miles of the stuff in varying lengths, construction type and connector ends. Till recently, cabling SKUs were stored in large cage bins, which did a good job of containment but raised issues of picking, space utilization and accessibility. As well, cabling easily becomes tangled and is tricky to separate, even with the best care and wrapping. When you strive for top customer service and are faced with multiple 53-foot trailers waiting at the dock, time truly is of the essence.
Among the options considered by Dan for effective storage and retrieval of cabling were Vertical Lift Modules (VLMs). He already appreciated their ability to leverage cube space by going “up,” as well as their high-density storage capability. He also knew that VLMs offer a highly efficient automated picking process.
After a thorough analysis of options and a lot of other “noodling”, the product selected to serve Christie Lites’ needs was Modula Lift by SYSTEM Group, represented in Canada by Swiss Instruments of Mississauga, Ontario. Dan calculated that the optimal number for his needs was two Modula VLMs, which was confirmed in discussions with Carlos Isetta, Regional Sales Manager at Swiss Instruments, who detailed the other benefits resulting from expert installation, setup and programming.
Christie Lites installed the Modula VLMs at the main distribution centre. At 50 feet tall, they are an imposing sight – impressive, too, when you realize that each module transforms its 150-square foot footprint into some 9,000 square feet of intelligent storage space!
The benefits of VLMs in terms of dynamic storage and efficient picking have been remarkable. With the operating software enabled, picking accuracy increased and cycle times improved immediately. Integrating the software directly with Christie’s existing ERP system and barcoding tools enabled an effortless transition, beginning with loading SKU’s into the VLMs, right the way through to picking the first orders.
Customer orders now link directly from the ERP system to the VLMs. When the stock-keeper initiates the pick, the VLM goes into action, finds the SKU and presents it directly to him, all automatically. That’s a huge improvement over the previous process, which involved a lot of personal travel, fishing around in cage bins, untangling cable, shooting the SKU with a barcode gun and dollying the selected units to the staging area. Miles of walking, bending, untangling and confirming have been eliminated, and order-pick accuracy is better than ever.
Swiss Instruments has been installing and setting up Modula VLMs in Canada for almost half its 60-year history in Canada.
How we have grown:
Founded almost 50 years ago, Swiss Instruments Limited and Belmag Machinery have experienced steady growth.
Swiss Instruments Limited expanded in Ontario with an Ottawa office, and a Windsor office. The Belmag Machine Tool group expanded across Canada with local partners forming Belmag Inc. in Dorval, Quebec and Belmag Machinery Corp. Ltd. in Coquitlam, British Columbia. We now offer our customers coast-to-coast Canadian representation.
SYSTEM is a privately-owned Group established in Fiorano (Modena, Italy) in 1970, which develops state-of-the-art solutions for industrial automation worldwide. It has 34 branches in 25 countries, employing more than 1,400 people. Its Modula division, located in Salvaterra di Casalgrande, is dedicated to the development of vertical automated storage solutions.
Implementation of the modules at Christie Lites was straightforward, taking only 15 days from the day they arrived to the day inventory began flowing from them.
From a business case perspective, Dan Souwand says, “The selection of VLM technology for our main distribution centre here in Etobicoke was solid and will achieve full payback in approximately three years. Plus, the systems integration makes for a far more efficient and quality picking process overall.”